And now for something a little different! This week, Viz Media is releasing the complete print collection of Marvel Meow strips by Nao Fuji. The series consists of gag manga starring Captain Marvel’s cat-like alien Chewie. Don’t worry if you don’t know who that is; for all intents and purposes this is just a book about a cat being cute in the vicinity of superheroes. But is it good?
Structurally the book is divided up into four parts, with Chewie encountering different heroes in each. In the first she meets various members of the Avengers and in the second she bonds with the X-Men. The third and fourth sections aren’t as strictly divided, but most of the third involves sci-fi heroes while the fourth focuses primarily on street level heroes ala Spider-Man. At the end of each section there are also a few informational pages giving one sentence summaries of who the characters are. It’s a feature that even many Marvel fans are likely to utilize at least once or twice since the book features some deep cut characters like Glob Herman and Galacta.
Composition-wise, most of the comics are single pagers with around six to nine panels in a standard square grid. Fuji utilizes this format well with consistent, steady pacing that keeps most of the events clear and easy to follow. It’s when this format is deviated from that the action gets a bit more confusing and/or simply less funny, however. A prime example of this is the Captain America and Winter Soldier comic which, in trying to fit the humor into more of a typical action setup and layout, fails to successfully execute either aspect particularly well. It’s not terrible by any means, it just lacks the successful comedic timing that’s consistent across most of the rest of the book.
Fortunately, most of the comics do succeed in delivering laughs and cuteness. This is due largely to the degree that Chewie’s adventures are tailored to fit the personalities of the heroes in question. Her time spent with Wolverine, for instance, is synchronistic. As Logan goes about his morning routine after just waking up, Chewie does the same. The two share some adorably gruff time together that ends in Chewie’s fur patterns being puffed out to replicate Logan’s classic ridiculous hair. It’s charming and Chewie is a great mirror of Logan here: a bit feral, but desiring peace and occasionally a companion.
Other strips draw upon their characters’ themes and histories to create fantastical gags. Moon Knight has a vision that includes Chewie, who then steps out of the thought bubbles depicting said vision to perch by him. It catches Moon Knight off-guard, and though it’s a simple gag it pays homage to his historically shaky relationship with reality. Ghost Rider’s strip is among the most ridiculous (in a good way), with him using his Penance Stare on Chewie. The Silver Surfer strip calls to mind real cats’ senses of adventure, while the Doctor Strange strip has great background comedy of Chewie knocking into upon various dangerous artifacts in the Sanctum Sanctorum. All in all there’s a great range of types of visual comedy throughout, and most of the jokes land effectively.
On the whole, Mavel Meow is a lot of fun. Fuji’s art is polished and has strong comedic timing, resulting in a humor manga that only occasionally falters. Beyond just being pleasing to look at, Marvel Meow draws upon its characters’ histories for inspiration to fuel all sorts of gags. The jokes are varied enough to never get stale even while while the compositional choices remain repetitive. Marvel Meow is sure to be an enjoyable read for both Marvel fans and fans of cute animal comics in general.
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